Cover letters are becoming rare: many employers don't even look at cover letters, and some recruiters consider them superfluous. However, that doesn't mean that the role of a cover letter isn't important, or that a cover letter can't be useful in some situations. Here's what you need to know.
1. Cover Letters Work in Certain Industries
Some industries are more likely to value cover letters than others. Public relations, marketing jobs, and content-related jobs tend to be more writing-focused. Creative industries are more people-centric, and consequently they enjoy a personal touch.
On the other hand, scientific and engineering jobs may put less weight on a cover letter, since those jobs don’t require such strong communication skills. The very presence of a cover letter is never going to hurt you, it just may not help you as much.
2. Cover Letters Should Include Detailed Information
If you do include a cover letter, don’t copy and paste it from one job application to the next. A generic cover letter may be worse than not having a cover letter at all, as it shows a general lack of interest in the job.
The right cover letter should include detailed information about why you are suited to the job and why your qualifications meet the position. You should also take the time to introduce yourself in a way that is relevant to the position. In particular, it should discuss the position in-depth.
If you don't discuss the specifics of the position, then it may appear as though you're sending a generic cover letter out to every position you're applying for.
3. Cover Letters Should Be Polished
Perhaps more importantly, cover letters should be proofed by someone other than you. It's easy to miss certain things, such as not noticing that you've repeated a word or that something is grammatically incorrect.
A lack of attention to your cover letter can stick out to an employer or a recruiter and make you look careless.
4. Cover Letters Should Be Short
Short and sweet is incredibly important for a cover letter. If someone does read your cover letter, it's likely that they aren't going to spend a lot of time on it. You need an eye-catching introduction and a memorable conclusion. Stick to facts and don't try to bulk it up.
Most cover letters should only be about three paragraphs long. They should never be longer than a single page. They can be used to fill in information that isn't on a resume, but they shouldn't be used as a replacement for an actual interview.
5. Cover Letters Should Be a Separate PDF
When including a cover letter with your resume, send PDFs of each document. PDFs are portable documents that look the same on every screen, whereas a Word document or other format may look different on your computer versus the computer of the person reviewing your application.
Separate the two PDFs to make it easier for the recruiter or hiring manager to introduce the documents into their system. Many resumes are automatically scanned through programs. You want to make it easier for your resume to be processed. This also gives them the option of ignoring the cover letter, if they do choose to do so.
Ultimately, a cover letter is intended to give you an extra step towards a good first impression. It can be useful, but you need to apply it correctly. That includes matching it with the perfect resume. For more information about developing your resume and connections, contact the AAA McKinstry Personnel Agency & Resume Service. We’re ready to help you succeed in your job search.